We all remember the way new slang, idioms, and hand gestures rapidly spread from kid to kid through high school. But that’s nothing compared to how quickly social media transmits regional slang and unique words and spellings both within common languages and around the globe.
During most of human history, new words and idioms traveled slowly from different regions of a country, and entered common usage at the same rate. The same stately pace applied to words borrowed from foreign languages.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Orkut (Facebook’s main rival in Brazil), Foursquare, and perhaps most importantly, Twitter have changed all that.
In the United Kingdom, for example, words from rich regional dialects are rapidly coming into use throughout the country, relayed from north to south and east to west on Facebook and Twitter. These days, citizens of Norfolk might use “gert lush,” a term from Bristol that means “very nice.” A Liverpudlian might borrow the word “pikelets” from the Midlands to describe her afternoon teatime crumpets.
In the U.S., recent studies show that regional “accents” (or dialects) are alive and well on Twitter. Slang spellings and abbreviations differ between northern and southern California, for instance. In San Francisco tweets, “cool” is shortened to “koo,” while in Santa Monica, it’s spelled “coo.” In most parts of the country, “something” is “sumthin,” but in Manhattan and Boston, it’s “suttin.”
In the Middle East, Facebook and Twitter helped spark the democratic movements in spring of this year. These social media platforms are also a powerful source of change in what one writer calls modern online Arabic – English spellings mixed with numerals that represent certain Arabic letters.
So next time you’re in the Twitter-verse, the Weibo-world, or visiting friends on Facebook, see if you notice any new words or spellings creeping into your tweets and posts. Or just maybe, you’re the one helping to enrich the world’s vocabulary.
Photo attribution: Trendsmap